In the Poetry Library With Phillip B. Williams


I think one easily get lost
in trying to find a poem, (laughs) a poet, a style of poetry, but then my question is what’s so wrong with being lost, or getting lost in it? And then maybe one poem becomes
a stepping stone on a path to other poems, to other
poetries, to other styles. So the getting lost is fine if one does not mind
not knowing the answer. Death, rot, decay, violence, and the way that they manifest in reality, versus the way that they
manifest in our imaginations. And so the way that I think
about the grotesque is bringing some kind of aesthetic
properties to these things that we fear, or that we find to be gross, and showing them a
different angle of them, ’cause they’re natural,
they’re gonna happen, they’re gonna continue to happen, whether it be an injustice or
just part of nature, you know. And so for me the grotesque
is just looking at a different kind of, side of these things that make us so uncomfortable. I’ll say 80%, I’ll go
straight to the laptop and just start free-styling,
or working on something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I use a paper and a pad to do things where I need to force myself to slow down, or I need to work out a form that the laptop won’t allow me to do, so it helps me to manipulate
things more easily than if I went straight to the laptop. So with the, the poems that are circular in the book, I had to draw that out on paper first before I could even, I had to figure out what I wanted to do before going to the laptop. What I wanted to do in
particular with that poem, the Inheritance poem, is make, and I wanted it
originally to fold it out, but we didn’t have the funding to do that, and so we made it so
that it covers two pages, and I wanted people to have,
when they’re reading the poem, a noose in their hands. I wanted them to have the object
of the noose in their hand. I didn’t want it to be
an abstraction of slavery or oppression or lynching history. I wanted them to have
an object in their hand, to manipulate, to have to turn it, and physically, you know, deal with it, and I also wanted it to be something that when the page is turned, it’s like you’re folding it away, you’re hiding it, you’re putting it away. Because Twitter only gives you, (laughs) what is it, 140 characters? People get very creative, very creative. (laughs) And just looking at the way
that folks have to manipulate the language in order to get
a complete thought across with so few characters, that has been, that has been interesting. There are even some poems
going around that mimic the 140 character motto
or mode of Twitter, so that’s affected poetry already. What could be argued as,
be the savior of poetry is the online journal, where someone can publish
your poem online for you, and without necessarily
having a subscription or needing a subscription,
someone from India can read that poem, someone
from Nigeria can read that poem. It gives equal access to
your work all over the world. That’s immediate. Poetry, I think, needs that. (laughs) I think it feeds off that
kind of accessibility. As much as it is an honor, it’s also something
that’s a responsibility, and so, yes, I have these opportunities, but how can I use them to
build other opportunities for other people, so that we’re not stepping, always feeling as though
we’re stepping on one another. It’s competitive, ’cause
people make it competitive, and when I say people, I don’t
necessarily mean the poets. Like, we’re under a lot of
duress when it comes to funding, when it comes to jobs. All those things interfere
with the craft of poetry, they don’t enhance it. And so as long as poetry
grows at the same rate that the community grows,
I think we’ll be okay. And it’ll be fine for
other people to come in as readers or writers
and get lost in that, but one can also get lost in this idea of there’s not enough, there are too many, where is mine? Just write, though, you know, and learn, and read other people’s work. That’s how we build a community. That’s how we build a community. And I think that’s how I do it. I just try to steer away from all of that, and say, “Okay, what is Yusef
Komunyakaa talking about?” Okay, Cate Marvin, she
has something to say. What does she say? She’s published it, she made
it such that I can read it, let me have a conversation
with her through her work. Let me see what Carl
Phillips is talking about, not what someone who is
very upset about something, whether it’s valid or not. I can’t focus on that. I have a poem in my heart. (laughs)

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